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Strong Ajax must content itself with tie against Juve

Strong Ajax must content itself with tie against Juve

The first quarter-final game between Ajax and Juventus ended in a tie on Wednesday.  The final score was 1-1 in the Johan Cruijff ArenA.  Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first goal right before halftime, and David Neres went on to tie the game early in the second half.  No more goals were scored in the rest of the game, meaning that anything is possible for next Tuesday’s return in Turin.

It was Juventus who was most likely to be pleased with the tie.  Ajax was in control for most of the game.

Erik ten Hag had Frenkie de Jong at his disposal against Juventus.  The player had been suffering from an akle injury leading up to the game.  The midfielder could play now, and that meant that the same 11 players as for the game against Willem II appeared on the field.

Ziyech dangerous in opening phase
Ajax started out hungry and applying pressure to the front.  The Ajacieds were clearly resolute to be the ones to set the tone.  The lively start almost led to the opening goal.  It was Ziyech who mainly peppered the Juve goal with long-distance shots, no fewer than three.  Especially his attempts in the 6th and 18th minutes were dangerous.  At the 1st attempt, Ziyech shot into the side net, and later on Wojciech Szczęsny saved a strong shot by the Moroccan player swiftly from the upper corner.

The rest of the game was fairly balanced.  Juventus was threatening via Ronaldo and Federico Benardeschi, but Ajax was imposing as well.  Donny van de Beek’s shot from a pivot missed the goal by a hair, and Nico Tagliafico came up just too short to send a pass from Ziyech in.

Ronaldo strikes
Right before the break, a big setback came for Ajax.  Ronaldo, who had scored so often against the Ajacieds with Real, sent a header into the Ajax’s goal via Onana’s hands.  It was bitter that the referee blew the whistle right after.

Disappointed, Ajax sought out the locker rooms, but they weren’t defeated.  That was clear as they came out, reborn, for the second half.  Within one minute, the reward came in the form of a tying goal.  Neres robbed his direct opponent, João Cancelo, of the ball, stormed up towards the Juve goal, and pulled the trigger with his right foot: 1-1.

The Johan Cruijff ArenA exploded, and could almost cheer again one minute later.  After another attack on the left side, Nico Tagliafico decided to take a shot, but it landed wide.

But Ajax’s strong start had given them confidence, and another strong 20 minutes followed.  Juventus was forced back, but was able to withstand Ajax’s storm.

Almost a dream debut for Ekkelenkamp
Fifteen minutes before time, Ten Hag made his first substitution.  Jurgen Ekkelenkamp replaced the exhausted Lasse Schöne.  Ekkelenkamp almost made a dream debut in the Champions League.  The midfielder was freed up in the 82nd minute, and received a pass from Dusan Tadic, but he stumbled in keeper Szczęsny.

Ajax deserved to score a second goal, but Juventus could have striken in the final minutes as well.  Douglas Costa’s shot hit the post.  The game remained a tie.  In six days, the return takes place in Turin!